Perfection is a four lettered word

5 02 2010

This week I had the first of my technology exams, specifically covering Microsoft Word 2007.  This is an application that I could pretty much use blindfolded to do most anything required of me.  I’ve used MS Word since the early days of version 95 and while the ribbons have changed and the capabilities have improved, the general technology of it is unchanged.

I sat down to take the exam though patiently and slowly, as you only get two chances at each answer and in my coursework the week prior I found that the my ways that work aren’t necessarily the proper ways that are accepted.  For example, on a homework assignment one had to change the font style and size of a footnote.  My method didn’t include the pilcrow (¶), the accepted method required copying it.  In an actual version of MS Word 2007 you can’t even highlight it to change a font setting, but in their scripted application to mimic the software, you can.  And since I didn’t, twice, I got the answer wrong.  So because of this, I approached the exam slowly, fully reading each question and trying to dismiss my I know this mentality.  On one question though I hovered my mouse too long and whatever I had it over was the selected answer.  Not by me, but by the system.  And it was wrong.  On another I was asked to reformat the size of a Smart Art, however there was only a WordArt on the page – which is not the same as SmartArt.  Thus I clicked the skip this option, figuring as the test was timed I would come back to this one later.  This option then logged me out entirely.  As I logged back in I found that instead of having 36 questions left, I had 30.  My final score was an 87.5% but I contacted my instructor anyhow – I had been prevented from answering 8 questions that I may have gotten right, likely would have gotten right, had I the opportunity to answer them.  Her response, ‘don’t worry about it, you got a B+ on it’.

This angered me, frustrated me, irked me.  I expect perfection of myself or as close as possible that I can get to it.  And to not even be afforded to opportunity to shoot for perfection was wrong.  How dare she be satisfied with my grade if I am not?

I was still sulking about, grumbling over the issue when I got my kids from school and my oldest daughter asked me about it.  As I shared the situation she began laughing and she told me she goes through this all the time – with me.  When she gets a 95, I ask why not a 100.  And when she shares my dismay with her teachers, they tell her that I expect too much.  I’m of the mindset that anything less than perfection means you just didn’t try to the best of your ability and there is room to grow and better yourself.  A 100 for me represents the very best you can do and true success.  This isn’t to say a 95 isn’t good, but rather what did you fail to grasp or accomplish that kept you from getting that other 5%?

My daughter told me it used to hurt her feelings, make her feel inept when I would not praise her for grades less than perfect.  That hurt a little to hear because I’ve never wanted my kids to think I am not proud of their best attempts, but I look at their grades with the knowledge of who they are and know when they could do better.  My oldest daughter reads on a college level and was not intimidated by even Ovid’s Metamorphoses when she and I picked that as a shared reading piece when she was only 12.  So certainly when her reading grade is anything less than a 100, I give her hell.  It isn’t acceptable.  Because I know it is only lack of motivation that kept her from perfection in her grade.  My youngest daughter though hates to read.  It’s a chore to make her pick up a book and she struggles to extract knowledge from books, fumbles over vocabulary used and her comprehension of the big picture is lacking because she has 0 interest in it.  So when she brings home even a B in reading, I am giddy, because I know the investment of attention she had to give to earn that grade.

That’s why for me, less than a perfect score in an application that I know inside and out and have used for fifteen plus years frustrates the hell out of me.

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